By Wendy Wood-Prince
Bustling Continental restaurant at night.
This spring in Chicago has been COLD!! According to local legendary weatherman Tom Skilling, this spring wasn’t the coldest ever in Chicago but was only 4.6 degrees warmer than the all-time coldest spring which occurred in 1926! Escape was necessary and I was lucky enough to be able to get away for a brief weekend to visit my friend Lidia, who lives for part of the year in Naples, Florida. Getting off the three hour flight from Chicago, and walking outside into the warm, humid air was like shedding the excruciatingly long winter of trying to hold every last morsel of warmth under layers and layers of shirts and sweaters, socks and boots. It was as if my body had forgotten how to relax!!
Naples at night.
Once settled into Lidia’s lovely apartment overlooking the sparkling gulf, we planned our weekend. Our first stop was at a friend’s house for a little sip and shop to benefit ovarian cancer. We bought a few goodies from India Hicks’s lifestyle brand, enjoyed some wine and nibbles and had some laughs, all for a good cause.
Afterwards, we headed to Giovanni restaurant which is tucked into a little corner of Crossroads shopping center. This is one of Naples best Italian restaurants and although it’s location in a strip mall is less than desirable, the food makes up for any lack of atmosphere. We sat outside in the moonlight and enjoyed a great meal until the skies opened and we were forced to take shelter. The Bucatini Puttanesca with olives, capers and pine nuts was totally delicious!
Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs.
The next morning required a long walk on the beach. Traveling, drinking and eating pasta make long walks on the beach a necessity. Luckily it was a warm day with a nice breeze and we walked and walked along Barefoot Beach. The beach is part of Barefoot Beach Preserve, this 342 acre preserve is also a county park open to the public. Along with the pristine beach there are sea turtle nesting sites, tidal creeks and mangrove swamps that support many species of animals and fish including the protected gopher tortoise. Walking along this stretch of beach seems very far away from the civilization that surrounds it. Fishermen and shellers stroll along amongst horseshoe crabs and blue crabs, while birds dart in and out of the surf with each incoming wave. We walked until our legs could not carry us one more foot and we decided it was time to eat and shop!!
Barefoot Beach Preserves.
Downtown Old Naples was next on the agenda, and it was a beautiful afternoon as we strolled through the historic streets. After purchasing a few of the brightly embroidered caftans at Gretchen Scott’s iconic store and perusing a few other shops in town, we stopped in the courtyard of Campiello for some lunch by the fountain.
The 80 plus year old banyan tree in the courtyard at Campiello restaurant.
Campiello is one of the best places to eat day or night. It is always bustling and the food is consistently good. The outside bar is always three deep with patrons chatting, flirting and enjoying. The courtyard of Campiello is one of my favorites and I love sitting near the gorgeous 80 year old banyan tree at the center. And lest I forget, have I mentioned the sauteed Florida snapper piccata with house made bread crumbs and lemon sauce???
Florida snapper piccata from Campiello.
Once again, feeling stuffed to the gills, we decided we needed more exercise. So we donned our tennis gear and headed to the Bonita Bay Club for a round of tennis. The Bonita Bay Club is a bustling club with tennis, swimming and dining in a lush tropical surround. The challenge was to keep our food intake and exercise in a state of equilibrium!! Not so easy, but we managed to do it.
Naples has some stunning sunsets.
That night we enjoyed a quiet evening on Lidia’s balcony listening to the waves lap below and enjoyed the warm humid air as we ate our leftovers, bracing ourselves before we both headed back to the unusually cold spring in the north the next morning.